CHRISTMAS arrived early for one Emerald teenager with a last minute call-up to the Queensland Under-16 Girls Touch team which toured New Zealand late last month.
Natasha Taylor, 15, was selected as a shadow player for the representative squad after trials in Maryborough during August but thought her state representative chances were dashed with no reply from selectors only weeks out from the tournament.
“She’d all but given up hope I think,” dad Joe Taylor said.
“Then, two weeks out, she got the call.”
In the ensuing 14 days, it was a mad rush to get Natasha ready for her first Queensland touch representation, but also for her first trip overseas.
It wasn’t until the Emerald representative arrived in Brisbane for a two-day training camp and to pick up her passport, that she knew for certain she would be leaving Australian shores at all.
There wasn’t even time to get Natasha a correctly fitting uniform, and she was forced to wear the uniform for the girl she’d replaced – but it was all worth the effort, Natasha said.
“It was exciting but definitely a lot different,” she said.
“Not knowing anyone and being away from family was hard.”
From the squad’s seven games played, the Queensland girls won five, and came agonisingly close to making Queensland touch history after being edged out by the powerful Kiwi outfit of Counties Manukau in the final game.
“None of the Queensland sides have beaten them before and in our last game it was a draw right up to the end. But then they scored right on the buzzer and made it 3-2,” Natasha said.
“It was out hardest game.”
The wing-link player scored six tries in her Queensland debut and encountered some stiff opposition from the girls across the Tasman.
“It was a lot faster than what I’m used to,” Natasha said. “And the girls were real big.”
“They play a lot rougher than we do in Australia.”
During her week-long stay in New Zealand, Taylor said the team also had the opportunity to visit the Thermal Village in Rotorua and go luging.
“It was scary at first looking at it,” she said of her first luging experience.
Closer to home, Natasha’s attention has now turned to the women’s A-grade grand final, where she will line up for Nunchuckers playing Cougars tonight at the racecourse touch fields - weather permitting.
While a win is certainly not unattainable, the odds appear to be stacked against them, Natasha said.
“We’ve lost a lot of our player-base, who have had to return home to the North Territory, and we know the Cougars always step up and play good.”
Men’s and women’s finals start 8.10pm tonight with presentations to follow.
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